South Korean and US troops begin annual drills after North Korea’s ballistic missile tests

South Korean and US troops begin annual drills after North Korea’s ballistic missile tests

US and South Korean troops have begun their annual military drills.

Tensions with North Korea have risen over the past few months, due to their two intercontinental ballistic missile tests, and Kim Jong-un and his government are not very happy.

Ulchi-Freedom-Guardian Credit: The Australian

The tests, which are named The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, began on Monday and are largely computer-simulated war games that will run until August 31st. However, despite being a mainly interactive drills, Pyongyang have called the 11 day exercises "reckless" and say that they are an invasive rehearsal that could trigger the "uncontrollable phase of nuclear war".

In a statement released in Rodong Sinmun, the official government newspaper, the North Korean government was quick to criticise the Trump administration for its part to play in the drills:

Credit: Huffington Post

"The Trump group's declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]... is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war," said the statement.

It continues, describing North Korea as the "strongest possessor" of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland from anywhere, something which is disputed by many experts.

"The Korean People's Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted."

South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, said that the drills are defensive in nature, and are being held regularly due to the repeated provocative rhetoric by North Korea and their leader, Kim Jong-un. Hostilities between the US and North Korea have been building over the past few months, with President Donald Trump issuing a warning to North Korea that their aggression will be met with "fire and fury" from the US military.

Moon-Jae-In Credit: Sky News

According to the US military command in South Korea and Seoul's defence ministry, the exercises taking place this month will involve 17,500 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers. The drills don't include any field training and are almost completely interactive, with senior officers sitting at computers to practise how they would engage in battles and hone their decision making skills.

Unsurprisingly, North Korea tends to respond to South Korea-US military exercises in a hostile manner, firing weapons and issuing aggressive rhetoric. During the Ulchi drills last year, North Korea decided to test-fire a submarine launched ballistic missile that travelled 310 miles; the longest flight recorded by that type of weapon. Not done there though, a few days after the drills in 2016, North Korea carried out another nuclear missile test.

Credit: ABC News

The rising tensions between the nations come after North Korea tested two ICBMs last month. Launching the missiles at lofty angles, experts believe that North Korea now has the capability to reach some parts of the US like Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if they fired their missiles at normal, flattened angles. Many believe it will only be a matter of time before North Korea can achieve it's goal of acquiring a nuclear missile with a big enough range to strike anywhere in the United States, which will no doubt further the tensions between the countries.

It's yet to be seen what the North will do in reaction to the drills happening this month, but no doubt it feels like we are on the edge of something pretty scary right now.